EWS Update #5 (02/24/98)

02/09/98 - 02/23/98


New England Aquarium

EARLY WARNING SYSTEM
Surveys For Right Whales

EWS Reports



(Page sponsored and maintained by WhaleNet)



Sea surface temperature at Jacksonville Beach: 61 degrees Fahrenheit. That usually heralds the inshore movement of loggerhead sea turtles. Flying along in our winged aluminum can, we should begin seeing more of the rust-colored discs with bright yellow flippers shining like jewels on the green water. The hypnotic drone of the engines make it difficult to stay focused as miles of ocean flow under the plane. The loggerheads, along with dolphins and sharks, provide punctuation to a repetitious page that goes on and on like the disciplinary assignments of grade school. I will not talk in class. I will not talk in class..... I will keep my eyes focused at a mile and a half. I will keep my eyes focused at a mile and a half... There's got to be a whale out here somewhere. Unfortunately, the more turtles and sharks and rays that we see, the fewer whales we're likely to encounter. Not that we've actually seen much of anything-- mammal, reptile or fish.

It's been one frontal assault after the next. Low pressure systems barreling through. Armies of dark angry clouds dumping huge amounts of hard driving rain across the pine woods, hardwood swamps, suburbs and strip malls that are north Florida. As these fronts pass offshore, westerly winds follow as if being dragged along in a rush. The sky clears and the wind sweeps out to sea, ripping the surface of the water into shreds, white shards, as far as the eye can see. And that's mostly what we've been seeing, the shredded surface of the sea.

During the past two weeks we've seen whales twice: a mother/calf pair on 02/09 and a pair of adults (or large juveniles), first sighted by the FL-DEP, on 02/19. The two noncalving whales were off Jacksonville Beach. The mother and calf were in the same area, not too far from the entrance to the port of Jacksonville. By all accounts, the calf was having a raucous time- breaching, lobtailing and generally raising hell.... appearing strong and ready for the long swim to New England. It's entirely possible they're already approaching Cape Cod, having passed offshore of Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington, Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City; having crossed the paths of all the ships coming and going to those towns and metropolises.

I suspect that we've seen most of the whales that we'll see this winter. During the next couple of weeks, Philip and Amy will identify the whales we've photographed and I'll let you know which right whales are making this year's contribution to the existence of the species. As always, check the website for more info.

http://whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/Right_EWS98.html

All the best from Fernandina Beach.
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